Legislation takes money away from public education to pay for a for-profit company reading program

Two education bills were heard this week that would force Minnesota schools to use state aid for public schools to pay a for-profit company reading training program. The legislation would create additional mandates for schools and require them to use compensatory and literacy aid funds for the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training program. The bills were amended together and passed to the Senate floor for further action.

These Senate Republican bills could be problematic for school districts because they require districts to use the money specifically for LETRS before they use it for anything else that might be helpful to students. So, programs currently in process would have to be cut short, causing disruptions for students and their educational progress. LETRS is run by the for-profit Voyager Sopris Learning company based in Dallas, TX. It is part of the larger Cambium Learning Group. Instead of investing in Minnesota schools and students, the Senate Republicans want our tax dollars to support an out-of-state, for-profit company.

Minnesota currently doesn’t mandate training or curriculum within state law, so this would be a dramatic step in a state that prides itself on local school district control. The state provides about $90 million every two years in literacy aid and $41 million in compensatory aid to be used on extended time programs, such as afterschool enrichment and summer school programs. These funds would need to be expended on the LERTS training first. These bills have no companions in the House.

 (SF2989, SF2990)